Brain foods are natural ingredients that have been proven to help improve performance of the brain by increasing the ability to concentrate and focus, to retain memories, and to think more clearly. Here are five brain foods and snack ideas for kids to help them do their best in the classroom and beyond.
- Blueberries A brain food favorite, especially when it comes to kids, since they taste so delicious. They are packed with anti-oxidants, and studies have shown that diets rich in blueberries significantly improved the learning capacity of aging rats. Blueberries help protect the brain from oxidative stress, and since they may reduce the effects of age-related conditions such as Alzheimer's, be sure to include a cup a day in your diet, too. Snack idea for the kids: Kids love popping plain blueberries into their mouths, so this is one easy snack to include in the lunchbox. Add a little variety (and a few more brain foods), by mixing air-popped popcorn together with fresh blueberries and dark chocolate chips.
- Yogurt Calcium rich foods such as yogurt improve nerve function. Yogurt contains an amino acid that is responsible for producing dopamine, which aids memory function and increases alertness. Snack idea for the kids: Many flavored yogurts contain high amounts of sugar; consider using a plain yogurt and stirring in a little vanilla extract instead. Then double up on your brainy snacks by using fresh blueberries on top of your yogurt.
- Avocados Avocados are a monounsaturated fat, which contributes to healthy blood flow. Healthy blood flow means a healthy brain. Snack idea for the kids: Make a simple cheese quesadilla with slices of avocado as the “meat” of the meal.
- Eggs Eggs contain the nutrient choline, which is necessary for the complete development of the memory center of a child's brain. An Iowa State University study found that about 90% of diets are choline deficient, so make sure your kids get enough choline in their diet. One egg yolk has about 200 mg of choline, which is the daily requirement for toddlers. Snack idea for the kids: Deviled eggs are often saved for parties, but would make for a great brain food anytime. Consider adding a little baked salmon into your egg yolk and mayo mixture—the omega-3s found in salmon also make it a great brain food.
- Chocolate It’s actually true what the kids have been trying to convince you—chocolate is good for you! The catch is we’re talking about dark chocolate—not the sweets found in the check-out aisle. Another reason dark chocolate is better for you and has a more “mature” taste is that it has a higher cacao percentage. The higher the cacao percentage, the less sugar in that particular chocolate. Stimulants found in dark chocolate are credited with improving mood and increasing concentration. Snack idea for the kids: Pair dark chocolate squares with fresh orange slices. The natural sweetness of the orange will help your kids adjust to the bitterness of the dark chocolate.